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Marek Janowski directs pleasant, risk-free program

BOSTON SYMPHONY

ORCHESTRA

Works by Schumann and Wagner.

Guest Conductor Marek Janowski.

At Symphony Hall, Feb. 2.

Performance tonight at 8 pm.

By JULIAN WEST

THE BOSTON SYMPHONY was fortunate to recover from the cancellation of one conductor of international stature, Giuseppe Sinopoli, by obtaining the services of another, Marek Janowski. Yet the program selected for Janowski's concerts was too conservative to fill a five-evening series.

Two expansive and evocative, if unexciting, Schumann pieces began the program, which was rounded out by two sure crowd-pleasers from the Wagnerian repertory. The demanding Strauss tone-poem, Also Sprach Zarathustra, which was originally scheduled for the evening, was dropped after Sinopoli's cancellation. Janowski, noted as a Wagnerian conductor, quite naturally wished to select pieces from his own repertoire, and the Wagner preludes are a required part of the repertoire of any major orchestra.

Yet without the Strauss, the evening lacked weight. Schumann's melodic Rhenish Symphony created the pleasant sensation of floating down the Rhine, a sort of less-exalted Water Music. Surely directed and excellently performed, the piece nevertheless sounded somewhat clich'ed. And, although Janowski exuded confidence and stability from the podium, some of the movements did suffer from tempo problems.

With the Wagner, both Janowski and the BSO seemed to be on more familiar ground. The prelude to Die Meistersinger received a textbook performance, although again it sounded fast throughout.

The evening's highlight was the prelude to Tristan and Isolde, which was performed with great expression and feeling. The "Liebestod" was performed without a soprano, but the darkness underscoring the vocal line was effectively captured. Aside from the intrusive dissonance of the final few bars, the music built to an effective and moving climax, rounding out a thoroughly pleasant, if unadventurous and risk-free, evening.